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Boston clouded in anxiousness day after bomb attacks on marathon

Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

BOSTON — Normal workdays in Boston's Back Bay section bring expensive cars through streets and white-collar professionals buzzing around an area dotted with hotels and corporate headquarters.

But a day after twin blasts at the Boston Marathon killed three people and wounded more than 170, a somber and uneasy mood settled into the city. Heavily armored vehicles and 1,500 members of the National Guard staked out every corner of the sprawling crime scene around the race's finish line.

“You can feel everybody's on edge,” said James Traer, 29, of Cambridge, a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It's a big psychological blow.”

The bombs were crudely fashioned from pressure cookers packed with metal shards, nails and ball bearings, and were stuffed into duffel bags, a person briefed on the investigation said Tuesday. Details emerged as investigators appealed to the public for amateur videos and photos that might yield clues to who carried out the attack.

President Obama branded the attack an act of terrorism, whether by a solo bomber or a group, and the FBI vowed to “go to the ends of the Earth” to determine which it was.

Scores of victims remained hospitalized, many with grievous injuries. A 9-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy were among 17 victims listed in critical condition.

Impromptu vigils drew crowds to the site in the early evening, and bouquets of flowers began to pile up against metal fencing that separated mourners from the soldiers and officers.

“I don't think my friend and I slept at all last night,” said marathon runner Kaitlyn Kacsuta, 45, of Pittsburgh's Bon Air neighborhood.

She heard the explosion while changing clothes in a building near the finish line.

“I missed it by 10 or 15 minutes, maybe,” said Kacsuta, an ultramarathon runner who finished in 3:25.

Jeremiah Wagner, 35, of Ligonier, a father of two and program director at the Ligonier YMCA, said he was much closer to the ensuing carnage, which took the life of Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester, Mass., Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford, Mass., and a Boston University grad student whose name the school withheld pending permission from the student's family.

Wagner heard the explosions shortly after he left a medical tent, where he was treated for dehydration upon finishing.

“Right when I gave my wife and children a hug, there were the explosions to the side of us,” Wagner said. “I was right there before a wave of victims came in. That's what is really getting to me.”

The site around the finish line looked much as it did on the race day — a ghost-town version, that is — as investigators tried to preserve and examine evidence.

Hundreds of cone-shaped paper cups that runners used for water swirled across wind-swept streets. Canopies advertising Adidas, Nike and other brands began tearing away from their moorings.

Wheelchairs sat crowded between police sawhorses near the medical tent. Metal fencing and portable toilets lined many streets along the race course.

Hundreds of runners milled through Back Bay. Many wore their blue-and-yellow Boston Marathon jerseys and race-day medals, making them easy to spot for a throng of camera- and microphone-toting reporters representing TV stations from as far away as Mexico, Japan and China.

Some runners sat quietly. Others sobbed into cell phones.

Runner Bill Burns, 55, of Moorehead, Minn., said there's little anyone can do to prevent attacks on huge races other than cancel them.

He and his wife, Michele, had planned to build a quick vacation around the race, including taking in a Boston Celtics basketball game, but it was canceled.

“It's surreal today,” Burns said as the couple sat on a concrete bench. “This is not a day we'll forget.”

Nor will authorities, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. He said via Twitter that the United States will not be deterred by terrorism and vowed to “hunt down” and bring the attackers to justice.

“We must ensure that those responsible for this act of terror are brought to swift justice,” said Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton.

“We will go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime, and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice,” said Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent-in-charge in Boston.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said his best advice for organizers and participants in the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon is a combination of British and American sentiments: “The Brits say, ‘Keep calm and carry on,' and we Americans are fond of saying, ‘If you see something, say something,' ” Hayden said. “Both should be applied in equal measure to runners, organizers and spectators alike for the event.”

Hayden, who has run the Pittsburgh Marathon three times, did not train to run it this year. “It's hard to find the time,” he said.

Mark Courtney, 57, of Grove City ran his 34th Boston Marathon on Monday and will not hesitate to return in 2014.

“They'll rebound. They've done everything appropriately,” said Courtney, a physician's assistant. “Boston is Boston.”

Staff writers Andrew Conte and Salena Zito and The Associated Press contributed. Jeremy Boren is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

 

 

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